Who is the best writer in usa

New generation of US authors - The voice of the other America

Their names are Teju Cole, Kevin Wilson, Chris Adrian and Chad Harbach and were born in the seventies, the oldest is 42, the youngest 33 years old. They come from different regions, from Wisconsin to Florida, one of them comes from a Nigerian family. All of them have studied creative writing, one is now working as a pediatrician and is also a trained theologian, the other earns his living as an assistant professor of creative writing, a third publishes a leading cultural magazine with friends, the fourth is writing his dissertation in art history Street Photographer and also teaches as Writer in Residence at a renowned college. All four of them caused a sensation in the American literary scene last fall with their books. And although three of them had never published a novel before, they have mastered this form perfectly in the most varied of variants: They give the big city, artist and family novel a new face, translate Shakespeare's “Midsummer Night's Dream” into a fantastically realistic tragicomedy with a setting San Francisco, and one of them succeeds in what is still the secret goal of all American novel writing: The Great American Novel.

The reviews in all the major newspapers and magazines were almost without exception exuberant, the authors were awarded prestigious prizes, and their names appeared on the “20 under 40” list that lists the most important writers of this generation. Her books hit the bestseller lists and were named one of the best novels of the year: Happy Authors, Happy America! Not even a generation after Jonathan Franzen and Jeffrey Eugenides does the literary imagination come to power in a new formation. Whether these books tell of global migration and violence, of the expropriation of the self in a life for art, of emotional and physical abuse or of how sudden emotional slumps can change entire careers - in the end they all come to one An irritating conclusion at first glance: the longing for simplicity and normalcy is their common denominator, the extraordinary is apparently no longer worth striving for.

A young man walks through New York at night, he's a black man named Julius. During the day he works in a clinic and is completing his specialist training as a psychiatrist. His girlfriend recently left him, restlessness drives him from one district to the next. Because everything seems uncertain: his goals, his present, his work, his own history, not unlike the situation in New York, five years after September 11, 2001. Teju Cole called his novel "Open City". The name comes from international martial law and signals a collection of human dwellings that must not be attacked because their leadership has declared that they will not defend themselves: they no longer have any means of defense.

So there is war, New York is a cosmos under siege. But even though Julius was once beaten up by a group of black youths in his own neighborhood, the real battlefield lies within himself - his walking around is both self-exploration and stocktaking. Because what does this self of the externally best integrated immigrant consist of: of experience? Realizations? Relationships? Hopes?

Teju Cole has given his city walker a story similar to his own, but the fictional Nigerian Julius is in a much more complicated situation. While Cole was born in 1975 to Nigerian parents in the USA and grew up in Lagos, his hero has a Nigerian father, but his mother is German - stories of flight, expulsion, rape, another flight and a subsequent uprooted wandering between them Continents of Europe, America and Africa are part of the maternal alienation complex. The father, a respected middle-class man in Nigeria, dies early and the boy goes to a military academy. He, too, is cut off from his family and embedded in a strictly regulated context in the principles of another, the Anglo-Saxon culture - which in turn enables him to later transition smoothly to the USA; unlike the refugee he visits in New York in detention and whose story he listens to without being able to intervene.

Page 2: World stories of a city walker

People who try to assert themselves in alienated conditions, who succumb, are degraded or who still find a way out of a seemingly hopeless situation, shape the African scene in "Open City" no differently than that in New York; they can also be found in Europe with undiminished force. On a trip to Brussels, where Julius suspects his German grandmother, he meets the operator of an internet shop, the young, multilingual Moroccan Farouq. He is a left-wing Muslim, reads Walter Benjamin and Deleuze, discusses Marx, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, in his country of refuge he is persecuted several times: the Arabs are threatened by Belgian nationalists, Farouq was refused a university degree for flimsy reasons. The fact that the war is raging in people's minds, the Moroccan and his friend Khalil are living proof of this: declared enemies of Israel, sympathizers of al-Khaida.

While Julius in New York not only passes the signs of the most recent mass murder at Ground Zero, but also a historical field of corpses: a cemetery of murdered slaves, theories are also sloshing in his brain - Teju Cole is a well-read author who reads here about Sigmund Freud , sometimes there argued about Gustav Mahler or Paul de Man; the unmistakable pride in the number and scope of his readings can also get on the nerves of the reader in between. In contrast, only one thing remains in the dark in this intercontinental exploration of violence-driven history of individuals and peoples: the rape allegation that Julius ’Nigerian childhood friend Moji has brought against him. The budding psychiatrist, whose field of work is the elucidation of traumatizing individual experiences, has repressed the circumstances of that evening in Africa; he won't go after them either.

But precisely this corresponds to the characterization that Cole wrote especially for his protagonist. The euphoric criticism in the USA read it as symptomatic of the state of mind of the contemporary urban intellectual: The hero of “Open City” is a spectator, what he sees remains external to him. Considerable amounts of cultural knowledge circulate in his head, but do not translate into actions: empathy takes place in theory. Accordingly, the image of the city of New York here is less that of a specific place than the concentrate of a world of ubiquitous violence and incessant migration.

From the big world to the provinces, from scientific theory to the practice of art, from the self-isolating individual to the higher purpose hell of the family - Kevin Wilson sets in his novel “The Collected Embarrassments of Our Parents in the order in which they are first performed »The accents in every central point are opposite to those in Teju Cole's« Open city ». And so on a cold, stormy afternoon there are five men standing in a field somewhere in Nebraska. Four of them, soldiers who have returned from the Iraq war, have invented a potato cannon, which they now want to demonstrate to the fifth - Buster Fang writes for the men's magazine “Potent”, and its editor-in-chief considers the ex-soldiers' agricultural joke to be “so goddamned male” that he absolutely wants to have it in his hand. But things don't turn out well for the reporter. When he wakes up again, he is in the hospital and can neither eat nor speak. Somehow the red hot potato must have made its way right into his face.

Page 3: Art as a family affair

For Buster, an unsuccessful novelist, painful experiences are nothing unusual, even if the injuries he sustained as a child and young man in the happenings staged by his parents had more emotional consequences. He is the son of Camille and Caleb Fang, his life was devoted to art from birth, not voluntarily of course. As «Child B», Buster appeared regularly in his parents' chaos productions, whose preferred location was shopping malls: The Fangs are internationally renowned artists who live in seclusion with their children in the country and prepare their projects until they get caught up in the rattling family vehicle set off for a new art event documented on video. Buster's sister Annie is also part of the party, figuring as "Child A" in the actions, and of course her adult life also runs in a series of hopelessly chaotic incidents. In the meantime, although she has already been nominated for an Oscar as an actress, Annie, like her brother, cannot distinguish which actions will damage her real life, where art ends and she has to assert her rights as an individual.

What 33-year-old Kevin Wilson tells in his debut novel is an utterly crazy story - an interweaving of family and artist novels that turn conventional ideas about art and family upside down in a furious series of fantastic and absurd processes and makes the two inherent logic shockingly visible. Family is not a shelter here, but a disgraceful means to an end, art, in turn, is the soulless octopus, which incorporates living beings with skin and hair and reveals them to the public in ever new variants of self-alienation and self-expropriation. The story is told so enthusiastically that the book stormed the “New York Times” bestseller list and was among the “Top Ten Books of 2011”. Wilson is, so to speak, the Jacques Tati among the young American authors: The tumultuous derailed events are viewed with a stoic eye, but it becomes clearer from performance to performance what happens to the individual when his sense of self-determination is cut off early on as a nameless particle it alone has to serve a larger whole. Due to dramatic incidents in their adult lives, Annie and Buster finally return to their parents' house and, how could it be otherwise, are manipulated by Camille and Caleb into a final art action. But this is your opportunity to finally finish the story of the incapacitation.

Kevin Wilson explicitly sees his characters in the literary tradition of the artist family Glass, which Jerome D. Salinger designed in the early sixties (see Literatures 2/2012). Looking back on his stories, one can assess the needs to which a novel like “The Collected Embarrassments of Our Parents” answers today. The topic here is no longer spiritual orientations that can give meaning and foundation to the individual existence, but existential questions: What rights must the individual be able to claim for himself in order to shape his life according to his possibilities and needs? On the other hand: Is there a right to self-expropriation for artistic purposes if art reveals knowledge about its own reality to the public? The projects of the Fang family provide a lot of material for consideration, especially since “Child A” and “Child B” later became artists themselves. Above all, however, the book tells of the energy of our desires and ideas that can ultimately not be suppressed: a black comedy of encouragement.

Chris Adrian, born in 1972, had already published three books when his novel “The Big Night” was published last autumn. From the life of seemingly normal people in San Francisco today, doors open into another world that extends under the (real existing) Buena Vista Park: the realm of Titania and Oberon. The story begins on an evening in June, on Midsummer Night, and what we know from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream will come back here, but in a brutalized way that denies all ideas about the supposedly cheerful fairy realm; for a number of people and elves this does not lead to a happy ending.

Page 4: An elephant state as a fun society

Among the extraordinary authors of his generation, Chris Adrian is once again an exception: a doctor on a children's cancer ward in San Francisco who completed the legendary Creative Writing course at the University of Iowa and later studied theology. The topics of his various training paths shaped his stories and novels from the start - in “The Big Night” they now appear in a uniquely condensed form. That there are more things between heaven and earth than our school wisdom can dream of is the focal point of the novel: Higher powers play with people here in a way that often exceeds the limits of their ability to suffer. And yet the hope that everything could turn out differently is not completely extinguished.

While in Shakespeare two pairs of people get lost in the nocturnal park, fall in love with each other through magic, then fall apart and find each other again, here two men and a woman grope their way through the woods on their way to a party, which they will of course never reach. Because beforehand a hellish war of the elven world breaks out on them, unleashed by the murderous Puck, who was released from his servant role by a sadly sad Titania; Meanwhile, a theater group of the socially excluded is rehearsing a musical intended to stir up the population against the mayor of San Francisco. And yet, whatever happens, in the park as in the numerous previous and side stories: Everything is always about love - and the fatal abuse that can be carried out with it. So it's also about despair.

The connection between the real and the supernatural, the everyday experience and a fantastic world, whose magical powers fail when the stolen human favorite child of Oberon and Titania dies of leukemia in the children's cancer ward and the marriage of the elf king couple over from pain, is indissoluble this death breaks. Above all, Adrian tells of the downside of the magical world, a bizarre fun society that is only devoted to its own - not least sexual - pleasure, arrogantly intervenes in the lives of people, kidnaps their boys and, as soon as they reach puberty, among the people Exposing people again: without memories, far from their families, incurably damaged in body and soul, sooner or later heading for suicide. Puck's former favorite boy, who was snatched from him by Titania and Oberon, at the end confronts the furious forest spirit and sacrifices his life in a battle of magical powers. The soulless elven society, however, moves on to another place, while Puck, finally deprived of his psychic powers, will lead a life as a "completely normal troublemaker" in San Francisco.

In “The Big Night”, Chris Adrian takes seriously the overlap of the two worlds, which intertwine in the “Midsummer Night's Dream” for the magical moments of a night: his novel shows the interlocking of the elven state and the human sphere as an existential constant - as the incessant encroachment of natural beings human existence. The fantastic creations, actions and creatures that come to mind can easily compete with Joanne K. Rowling's inventions in “Harry Potter”, not just in terms of his ironic characters. Except that the strangest fantasy figure still clings to something threatening and the ultimate conquest of evil is unimaginable. Because it is the fundamental inability of the nature spirits to be compassionate, their rigorous pursuit of their own needs that conjure up the night side of magic such as love: the abuse of those who have no chance to defend themselves against the unearthly powers.

Page 5: Not for the scared: The Great American Novel

And yet the fantastically realistic research expedition into the world of shattered emotions ends with a faint glimmer of hope: When the surviving people stumble back into the city in the first morning light, three pairs of people have found each other. And since Titania's elven state is leaving San Francisco, one can hope that at least she will be spared for her lifetime.

Callousness and self-obsession are the big themes that run through the novels of Teju Cole, Kevin Wilson and Chris Adrian. On the other hand, they mark as an existential deficiency the right and the possibility of the individual to determine his own fate and to be able to turn to other people with affection and compassion - a painfully gaping void.With his debut “The Art of Field Game”, Chris Harbach closes it with a major alternative - and a surprising consistency.

This in itself is not a project for the faint-hearted. In his first novel, however, Harbach also takes on the central stars of American literature and culture. Not only is a Melville researcher one of his main characters - he also makes the American sport his subject: baseball. And so begins an ironic game with its great predecessors: Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" is considered the archetype of the Great American Novel, while baseball, on the other hand, is not only the subject of a satirical novel by Philip Roth published in 1972 - title: "The Great American Novel" - , a baseball game is also the place for a social panorama of the USA in Don DeLillo's «Underworld», the great American novel of the late millennium - so there is no shortage of national sanctuaries in «The Art of Field Game».

This debut is by no means an ingenious throw down in one piece. Chad Harbach, a graduate of Harvard University's English Department and a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Virginia, worked on his manuscript for ten years. When it was finished, no publisher wanted the book until a young agent took it on - the text was finally auctioned for the record advance sum of $ 665,000, and soon after it was published it landed in the top group of «New York Times ”bestseller list and was among the“ New York Times Books of the Year ”in December 2011 - all of this itself almost again material for a Great American Novel.

The anthemic reviews left no doubt that one has to deal with one of these in this novel. At the center is Henry Skrimshander from South Dakota, who at first appears pitifully pitiable and who is noticed by the leading player of a college baseball team, Mike Schwartz, during a tournament: Mike recognizes the outstanding in Henry, whose whole life has revolved around baseball from childhood Natural talent and ensures that the boy gets a place at Westish College and on its baseball team, "The Harpooners". The college's president, however, is none other than the Melville researcher Guert Affenlight, who once discovered as a student that Herman Melville was once a guest speaker in Westish. reminiscent of the baseball team's name and its symbol, the harpoon. As soon as Henry's future roommate and teammate Owen Dunne - charming, well-read, latte-colored and gay - has also arrived in Westish and Affenlight's daughter Pella has left her husband to resume university education, the main characters of the novel are complete.

The drama about a gifted and perfectionist player, who seriously injured his friend Owen with his first missed throw after over a hundred games and thus lost all self-confidence in his abilities, can begin. This also includes a love affair between the college president (who until then had only experienced himself as a lover and favorite of the ladies) and the student Owen, as well as another between Pella and Mike Schwartz, who is equally highly motivated in sports and studies. It is he who took Henry under his wing from the very beginning and now has to learn that not even he can help the baseball genius, who the scouts of the professional teams are already hunting for, out of his crisis. When everything gradually begins to resolve itself after about 550 pages, someone has died, a pair of lovers have found each other and four young people are heading for a new phase in their lives in which they move from exuberant, youthful, high-flyer plans in favor of serious work have adopted their respective talents.

Page 6: Back to the basics that lie within the individual

A social monster with a final dream waiver solution could easily have turned into a coming of age novel of the banal kind. “The art of field play” is anything but that: The dreams are taken just as seriously as the concrete circumstances that they encounter - it's about giving personality designs a form that endures in reality. In this interplay between self-reflection and reality analysis, the highly gifted Owen Dunne, known as "Buddha", is far ahead of his contemporaries; the others still have to practice it in order to find a starting position for a successful adult life. Harbach's message is not renunciation, but constant change in respect of one's own as well as the other; Humility is essential, as is modesty. For Henry Skrimshander, however, there is still a special lesson to learn: that feelings are part of life, threatening only as long as they rage unrecognized in the unconscious.

Lessons of life for the present are at the heart of Chad Harbach's novel, and what makes it great is not just the daring and stupendous narrative talent of this author - it is precisely the absence of anything instructive or sentimental. But where the Great American Novel, from the basic text "Moby Dick" to Don DeLillo's "Underworld", still reflected American society in all its facets in large panoramas, "The Art of Field Game" performs the self-confident countermovement - by limiting itself to that Province and there again on the clearly limited space of a college. Not world circles are paced here, the challenge of the individual in his or her own field is the topic. Only when the exceptional talent Henry has learned to develop not only his outstanding abilities, but his personality and to integrate their conflicting elements, will he actually be able to become a hero of the American world of achievement and success: He has to be his point of reference inside, not in find a glamorous outside.

It is more than astonishing that all four books - the intellectual as well as the artist novel, the fantastically realistic fable like the America saga - cover the same path at the beginning of the 2010s: back to the fundamentals that lie within the individual. From there, one follows Cole, Wilson and Adrian, the fundamental threat to the whole of society: from the frenzies of a deregulated self that no longer feels bound by standards and limits, from selfish encroachments on the existence of others. But the fact that “The Art of Field Game”, in addition to respect for one's own and other people's feelings, puts categories such as modesty and humility back into the right place should be surprising in view of America's immediate present. Chad Harbach takes the most decisive step into the literary counterworld with his conclusion: a well-founded hope for change.